Unesco lauds government effort, political commitment in implementing Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
First Published: Mon, Jun 10 2013. 07 36 AM IST
India’s commitment to elementary education helped it get the “largest share of aid” to basic education of any country in the world (10%). Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Updated: Mon, Jun 10 2013. 09 43 AM IST
New Delhi: Bringing cheer to India’s administrators, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) said the country has progressed the most in the world in sending children to schools by committed implementation of its right to education law and universal elementary education programme.
“India has made the largest progress in absolute terms of any country in the world … reducing out-of-school (children) numbers from 20 million in 2000 to 2.3 million in 2006, and (around) 1.7 million by latest data (2011),” Unesco’s latest Education For All Global Monitoring Report said.
The United Nations agency lauded the government’s effort and political commitment in implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a welfare programme on universalizing elementary education, and making education an entitlement by law.
Although an official at the human resource development ministry said, on condition of anonymity, that the elementary education scheme has started showing results and the benefits of the right to education law will follow suit in a few years, some experts are sceptical of the progress.
“Since 2000, it’s fact that enrolment has gone up significantly. But many students are only in school registers,” said educationist Vinod Raina. “Education is not about only enrolment. You have to look at enrolment, attendance and dropout rate together.”
“In India, the attendance rate is around 70% and the dropout rate is nearly 40% at the elementary level. These are not comfortable numbers at all,” said Raina, a member of the Central Advisory Board on Education, the highest education policy adviser to the Union government.
“Many UN bodies are not very critical of countries because they don’t have their independent source of information. They depend on data provided by governments.”
India’s commitment to elementary education helped it get the “largest share of aid” to basic education of any country in the world (10%). The country received $578 million in aid during 2011, 50% more than the previous year, Pauline Rose, director of the global monitoring report told Mint in an email.
What is heartening is that South Asia, considered one of the poorest regions in the world, has made more progress than any other region in sending children to schools. This progress has helped the entire world in bettering this social indicator, said the report released on Sunday.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be a drag.
“As Africa’s proportion of the world’s out-of-school children grows, South and West Asia’s declines,” said the report. In 2000, there were some 37.8 million out-of-school children in South and West Asia, which dropped to 12.4 million in 2011. In the same period, sub-Saharan Africa reduced the number of its out-of-school children from 40.6 million to 29.8 million.
Despite the progress made in some regions, including India, the entire world may fail to achieve 100% schooling by 2015, Unesco said. This is because several key donors, including countries and multi-lateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have reduced education grants to needy countries. In 2011, the world had some 57 million children out of schools, the report said.
“As debate continues over the goals of the post-2015 development agenda, new data show that the world is unlikely to fulfil one of the most modest commitments: to get every child in school by 2015,” the UN body said.
“More than 57 million children continue to be denied the right to primary education, almost half of whom will probably never enter a classroom.”
The report said donor countries and agencies facing tough economic environment have cut their education grants. Of the 10 major bilateral donors to basic education, six (Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and the US) have reduced their aid. While the World Bank increased its aid to basic education overall, its allocation to low-income countries declined by almost a quarter. The Netherlands, too, has cut its aid by 33% as this does not contribute to its foreign policy priorities, the report said.
“Economic austerity should not be an excuse for donors to abandon their pledges to the world’s poorest,” Unesco said in its report.
Raina did not completely agree with this.
“Basic education should be a responsibility of the domestic economy and countries like India should never rely on grants or loans,” he said. “But some countries, which don’t have a robust domestic economy, need sustained allocation from donor countries and agencies.”